What Are The Costs To Open a Weed Dispensary

Posted by Patrick Vedder on


While marijuana has been around for years, it is only very recently that the substance has been made legally available to persons with prescriptions.

In California, marijuana laws are based on local laws.

Opening and operating a dispensary is not cheap or for lazy people.

The marijuana boom is being called the "green rush" as many people are now becoming interested in opening a dispensary and cashing in on selling marijuana.

Just remember you will have to deal with employees, customers, and the government.

Even if a county authorizes medical marijuana dispensaries within county boundaries, individual cities may restrict or prohibit them.

In Los Angeles, for example, only producers operating before September 14, 2007 were eligible for a lottery in which 100 qualified dispensaries were selected to operate in the city.

Plan ahead and do your research
Opening a dispensary is not cheap and requires quite a bit of capital, see below.


Costs Related To Open a Dispensary

To get a sense of what overall numbers you are talking about, here are the startup costs:

  • Massachusetts needs to see proof that you have $500,000 or more in liquid capital to apply for a license
  • For those in Nevada you need $250,000 in capital
  • In California you are looking at about $200,00
  • In Pennsylvania you will need $150,000 in capital to open a dispensary


A potential medicinal marijuana dispensary owner should keep in mind that if you don’t own any suitable place to start your business you must find one for rent.

Rents in California might vary depending on the place and it could dramatically affect your budget if you forget check the market first.

Don't be surprised to be paying $4000 a month in California or more for a tiny space.

Application and License Fees

Applying for a license to own and operate a dispensary is not a fun task.

Like all the other costs the fees will vary by the state you do business in.

In Louisiana there is a $5000 application fee and a $150 licensing fee

But in New Jersey it will cost closer to $20,000 to apply for a license and open a store.

Plan to have at least $10,000 or more to deal with the license and application fees.


Cash Management Solutions

You want to ensure that your staff is safe, while automating the cash handling process.

Consider buying a cash counter to increase productivity.

A Smart Safe is a great way to automate cash handling, reduce risks to the dispensary and increase overall profitability.

In addition a currency discriminator can be very beneficial to a dispensary owner.

The discriminator allows you to rearrange bills and sorts during the count for cleaner stacking and banding.


To start any successful company you have to get the public to know about it.

Sure there is weedmaps.com and yelp to help promote a new dispensary, but that might not be enough.

Be prepared to spend at least $5000 to get going.

Things like digital marketing, social media (FB, IG accounts, etc.) and of course just having a good website.

Ideally you want to have closer to $10,000 to get started and probably at least $2,000 a month.


Of course opening a dispensary will create a few new jobs in the area.

To get started you should have at least $5000 available for payroll.

Be prepared to pay at least minimum wage for a few employees for a few months.

Finding a good budtender might be harder than you think.

Depending on what city you live in, finding good help can be a challenge.


dispensary security guards

Security Guards

According to Thumbtack, a guard’s experience level also affects the hourly rate they charge.

In addition, independent security guards usually have lower rates than those employed by a licensed, insured firm, as companies generally have larger overheads.

Typically clients get more protection in the form of liability insurance.

Companies typically can provide a greater range of security services.

Having good security is key
You want your customers to feel safe while visiting your dispensary. Don't cheap out when hiring security

Here are average hourly rates for security guards from a full-service security company:

  • Basic unarmed guard: $15–$20 per hour.
  • Basic armed guard: $20–$25 per hour.
  • Unarmed guard with advanced skills and experience: $30–$35 per hour.
  • Armed guard with advanced skills and experience: $35–$45 per hour.
  • Most experienced (off-duty police officers, ex-military) armed guard: $60–$100 per hour or more.



    Surveillance / Security Systems

    The installation itself can range from $10,000 (for a 16 camera setup) and up.

    Most dispensaries install between 16 and 32 cameras - for locations under 1500 sq ft.

    Then you are going to need an alarm system, but usually you can save on a package deal.


    You have to have a clean and functional store to run a successful weed dispensary.

    You need display cases, security cameras, computer, POS system, some furniture, refrigerators, and more.

    This can easily cost $10,000 or more to do correctly.


    The Product - Weed, Marijuana, Cannabis

    Of course to run a dispensary you need to have inventory - AKA - Marijuana.

    As a retailer you will be buying weed in bulk, probably by the pound.

    In 2017 wholesale prices for cannabis were about $1000 per pound.

    Cannabis is perishable so you need to be aware of inventory needs and projected sales.

    So you need to decide how many pounds you need to open your doors.

    Smart Rules To Live By:

    1. Strictly adhere to any existing regulations
    2. Avoid any location near potential sensitive use areas: schools, parks, houses & apartments
    3. Be honest with potential landlords about use of space.
    4. Become informed about local zoning regulations
    5. Engage local politicians
    6. Keep your books as open and honest as possible
    7. Pay taxes


    california dispensary laws

    How Do I Start A Dispensary According to Californian Law?

    1. File articles of incorporation under the Corporations or Food and Agricultural Code
    2. Get the proper permits
    3. Regulate membership in the cooperative/collective to ensure medical distribution only
    4. Marijuana must only be bought or sold to/from members
    5. Charge reasonable fees
    6. Keep track of the amount of marijuana in possession
    7. Establish modern security practices

    Check out this legal site for more details.

    Remember that all of the requirements are very important.

    Other Details To Remember

    If you are a patient caregiver to whom a doctor prescribed marijuana, you can grow the number of plants the doctor recommended for patients in your care without signing an agreement.

    If you sell it directly to qualified patients, you will also need a sales permit from the California State Tax Authority.

    This is the process for obtaining a permit to grow and sell marijuana for medical purposes in California.

    However, in some municipalities, growing and selling marijuana is restricted or prohibited.

    Check with the government offices of your city and county to find out what the regulations of the city in which your garden will be.

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